Why Our Sustainability Manager Eats Plants

I became a vegetarian at 19. Although, I had a brief stint in 7th grade when my brother bet me I couldn't go a month...
Why Our Sustainability Manager Eats Plants

I became a vegetarian at 19. Although, I had a brief stint in 7th grade when my brother bet me I couldn't go a month without meat...I didn't last the month. Apparently, pasta and bread are not the best dietary choices for an anemic girl.

However, this time around, when I made the decision to go vegetarian, I was determined to do it right. I focused on getting enough plant-based protein, monitoring my iron levels, and ensuring I wasn't deficient in any nutrients. While some meat-eaters express skepticism about getting all the necessary nutrients from a plant-based diet, I, along with many others who follow this lifestyle, have found that it is possible to achieve a balanced and healthy diet without meat. I actually find that it is not difficult at all, just something you have to adjust to. Then, it honestly doesn't even cross my mind until someone asks. 

While I initially became vegetarian because of my love for animals and my growing awareness of the cruel practices of the factory farming industry (which was reason enough for me to start), I soon discovered through my work and studies in sustainability that there were immense environmental benefits from eating a plant-based diet.

  • Environmental Benefits: Raising animals for food uses significant amounts of land and water (land degradation anyone?), contributes to greenhouse gas emissions (no thanks Climate Change), and can pollute waterways with runoff (Don't love the idea of drinking animal-runoff water). These environmental consequences have a ripple effect on human health. Some industrial farming practices involve the use of antibiotics in animals, which can contribute to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, posing a threat to human health when these bacteria are transferred through the food chain. There is also a huge chunk of our agricultural systems that are just there to produce the feed for livestock. Growing the same crop at this level is dangerous for many reasons. If you are interested in learning more, you can look into "monoculture" farming. Maybe something I'll get into in another blog.
  • Health Benefits: Studies have shown that those who follow a plant-based diet have a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Additionally, research from communities in the Blue Zones, regions known for exceptional longevity, reveal a common thread: a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. My favorite come back to meat eaters who say I am living an "unhealthy lifestyle" is talking about Blue Zones. No hate to anyone who has their own opinions! But there are so many health benefits of a plant-based diet. Especially in today's society with so many additives and preservatives that we can't even keep track of, it's okay to talk about why it is important to you to stray from meat. 

While I am not currently vegan, I do often find myself grocery shopping like one, and I commend everyone who chooses this path, as I know how much work it is. Over the years, I've found that some days I naturally gravitate towards a vegan diet, while other days I include some vegetarian options (I'm a Wisconsin girl...sometimes cheese is the answer.) Ultimately, what works best for me is a flexible approach that allows me to prioritize my health, my values, and my taste buds. Which is exactly how anyone should approach their diet and lifestyle choices!

When people ask me if I ever think about going back to a meat-based diet, or if I miss eating meat, I honestly say that I haven't even considered it. The cruel practices of the industry were enough to deter me from ever desiring meat again. But I realize that might not be the case for everyone - and that's okay! Whatever might motivate you to explore, test it out, or commit to it fully is all that matters in your own plant-based journey. 

Interested in exploring a plant-based lifestyle? Here are some steps to get you started that definitely helped me:

  1. Start Small: Don't jump in headfirst! Begin by incorporating more plant-based meals into your routine, like a "Meatless Monday" or a "Taco Tuesday" featuring plant-based protein alternatives.
  2. Embrace New Flavors: Explore the exciting world of plant-based cuisine! Look for cookbooks, online resources, or even cooking classes dedicated to plant-based recipes. Pinterest will be your best friend! There are so many great cooks out there who have perfected cooking plant-based meals so you aren't losing out on any flavor or food experiences. Check them out!
    1. Stock Up on Staples: Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with essentials like beans, lentils, whole grains, tofu, tempeh, and frozen vegetables for quick and healthy meals. 
    2. Plan and Prepare: Planning meals and snacks for the week helps avoid unhealthy last-minute choices. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to ensure a balanced diet.  Plant-based or not, I highly recommend meal prepping! This is a good way to keep to goals or meal types throughout the week.
    3. Find Your Tribe: Connect with others on the plant-based journey through online communities, local support groups, or like-minded friends and family. Having a support system makes the journey more enjoyable and sustainable. 

    I hope this article has been informative and inspiring. If you're interested in learning more about plant-based lifestyles, there are many resources available online and in libraries. You can also consult with a registered dietitian to create a personalized plan that meets your individual needs.

    In need of some reusable grocery bags to go get your plant-based food while reducing your plastic consumption? Check out our fave coolers and totes HERE!


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